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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Emerging Science Note/GM Experiments

Air Date: Week of

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Living on Earth’s Cynthia Graber reports on a new technique to prevent genetically-modified plants from spreading their genes into the environment.


CURWOOD: Coming up, Oregon's greenbelt planning a generation later. First, this Note on Emerging Science from Cynthia Graber.

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GRABER: Critics of genetically modified plants have long been concerned that the crops could contaminate wild relatives or non-GM crops through cross-pollination. Now, scientists believe they may have come up with one possible solution. Researchers in Canada introduced two genes into tobacco plants. One is a so-called terminator gene which keeps the plant's seeds from germinating. The other is what's known as a repressor gene. It turns off the terminator and allows the plants to reproduce. Here's why this technique might help in a real world situation.

When a GM plant cross-pollinates with a non-GM one, the terminator gene separates out from the repressor. This turns off the repressor and allows the terminator to kick in so the plants can't reproduce. In other words, the genetically modified plant would be unable to spread its genes. This was a carefully controlled experiment. Many more tests are needed to verify if this will work out in the field.

That's this week's Note on Emerging Science. I'm Cynthia Graber.

CURWOOD: And you're listening to Living on Earth.

[MUSIC: The Beatles “I Want You” Abbey Road Capitol (1969)]



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